Lead- and arsenic-laced smoke sent 16 San Diego shipyard workers to the hospital after a fire started during abrasive blasting operations Thursday (Nov. 21), officials said.
A 17th worker was hospitalized after a commercial-sized dust collector fell on top of him, covering him in toxic dust.
The blasting work was being performed on a military ship in a floating dry dock at the BAE Systems shipyard in the Barrio Logan area of San Diego, CA, when a fire started inside a dust collector about 10:25 a.m. PT Thursday, according to San Diego Fire-Rescue Department spokesman Maurice Luque.
Lead, arsenic and other materials ignited in the dust collector, creating off a large amount of toxic smoke, Luque said.
A military ship on a floating dry dock at the BAE Systems shipyard repair facility in San Diego, CA, was undergoing blasting work when a fire started in the dust collector, sending toxic fumes through the ship. Seventeen people were hospitalized.
Water collected from the firefighters' hoses caused the bin to become top-heavy and topple over, San Diego 6 The CW, reported. However, the worker was not trapped or seriously injured, Luque said.
58 Workers Evacuated
Luque called the fire accidental, saying the dust from the abrasive blasting had found an ignition source.
The toxic smoke poured into the ship, causing 58 military and civilian crew members to be evacuated and assessed.
A rescue response rig, a hazardous materials response team, several ambulances and six fire trucks responded. It took about three hours to extinguish the blaze, Luque said. However, a spokesperson for BAE Systems said that the fire was extinguished in 30 minutes, but crews remained on the scene for longer as a piece of machinery was smoldering
All of those injured were employees of a BAE Systems subcontractor, International Marine & Industrial Applicators, according to a BAE Systems media statement.
The workers were being treated for breathing problems and possible exposure to toxic materials.
"Protecting our employees, all workers in the shipyard, and the community is fundamental to BAE Systems," the company stated.
Officials were unsure if the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would launch an investigation. California operates its own occupational safety and health program. Cal/OSHA did not immediately respond to a request for information Friday.
About the Shipyard
The BAE Systems San Diego Ship Repair facility sits adjacent to the U.S. Naval Station on 20 acres of property and over 16.6 acres of water area, according to the company's website.
BAE Systems' San Diego Ship Repair works on various types of government and commercial vessels, including U.S. Navy fleet, landing platform docks, dock landing ships, cruise ships, tankers and barges.
Currently, the facility is executing five-year multi-ship, multi-option contracts for guided missile cruisers, guided missile destroyers, landing transport dock amphibious ships and mine counter measure ships.